DeFi the Police

“a democratic country is mature
when the armed forces are
perfectly integrated in the civil society”
(N. Bobbio)

  1. I mean to start a conversation on the “centralized management of violence” (CMV) — please don’t call it “monopoly of violence”, as violence should not be a marketable item
  2. I will explore the field and trace some use case candidates for decentralized technology
  3. Eventually, I will present some Proofs of Concept

A few necessary disclaimers:

  1. I do believe that we need a certain level of management of violence, which cannot be ascribed to normal citizens and instead requires professionals who are trained both in combat as well as in crisis management and law.
  2. The CMV is a vast field that changes by country, by the number and diversity of the forces deployed on the territory and by local issues. The average alert level of the police in Honduras is surely different than the one in any European country.
  3. I have based this research on direct interviews carried on with officers of the Italian police, military personnel and other professionals working for NATO: these interviews’ confidentiality is covered by the Chatham House Rule.
  4. I will treat police and army forces as a whole under the name Security Forces (SF). Reasons in place beyond the pure simplification are:
  • a process of merging between the police and the army has been in place since 9/11. Some examples: 1) the Strade Sicure (“safe streets”) program in Italy 2) the Operation Temperer in the UK 3) the Operation Sentinel in France.
  • during the Jan the 6th 2021 Capitol attack military personnel supervised police operations.
  • very often the police and the military work together in the fight against drug cartels and organized crime.

Tidbits of interest about Security Forces

  • SF members could be considered members of an oath-based caste (“once a cop, always a cop”), which is appointed but not elected, and carries the downside of a lower degree of job-mobility throughout a professional’s life.
  • SF obey constitutionally-elected representatives, who have a higher turnover rate and can change political party at any time in most countries, regardless of the initial affiliation they were elected for. This leaves room to wonder whether the SF obedience to these representatives outrules the obedience to the Constitution itself.
  • they keep citizens safe from what they call the Social Alert, which is a list of social threats listed by a country’s government at a given time.
  • SF are funded by taxation.
  • SF supply-chain economics are intertwined with the hierarchy in command, which often leads to costly/inefficient/malicious allocations of budget and supplies and lowers the efficiency of logistics.

When are SF ‘good’?

  • when they fight organized and individual crime.
  • when they guarantee national and public security.
  • when they manage street order.
  • when they coordinate the population in case of catastrophic events.
  • when they make sure that infrastructures run.

When are SF ‘bad’?

  • when they act against the constitution.
  • when they use suppressive and excessive RoE (rules of engagement) during pacific demonstrations, or use any form of torture against citizens.
  • when they execute orders against our freedom of speech and press, our freedom of movement or assembly and identity rights such as genders, political status, or sanitary condition.
  • when they seize infrastructures, or obscure the internet on behalf of a boycotted, dictatorial government.
  • when they engage in a war against their country’s constitutional basis and without the consent of the citizens.

SF need secrecy for:

  • investigations.
  • target definition in war scenarios.
  • on-field communications.

SF need transparency for:

  • accountability at every step of the chain of command.
  • budgeting and spending.

“Bugs” in the CMV

The interviews conducted highlighted inefficiencies, grey areas that often incentivize malicious behaviors on behalf of the SF, and could be potential candidates for decentralized technology.

  • the centrally determined resource-allocation is often not efficient, creates wrong supply allocations (e.g. all police officers in Italy must switch to winter/summer uniforms at given dates, despite the very different temperatures in the North and in the South) and leads to storehouses filled with unused material.
  • doped contracts. There can be conflicts of interest when high-rank officials sign supply contracts with specific contractors.
  • contractors of the SF can overprice basic items (the case of the $10,000 toilet cover), and/or offer supplies of poor quality.
  • asset forfeiture: when a of police department does not account properly seized cash and valuables (e.g. finding €10k in cash, reporting €5k), which often uncovers vicious circles of corruption.
  • centralized communications, both administrative and operational, can be hacked and manipulated.
  • the long bureaucracy around passports.
  • bonus KPIs. Police districts have to reach government-set KPIs (along the line of the social alert) in order to obtain bonuses and get more funding. Unfortunately, most of these KPIs incentivize corrective measures, like the number of arrests (note: the same person can be arrested several times for the same crime, and still contribute to reach that KPI), and do not incentivize preemptive ones. There are not enough incentives for Police Districts to work on crime prevention programs that can impact communities at large.

“Gimmicks” in the CMV

By “gimmicks” here I mean procedures and interesting aspects within the SF that can help the above mentioned points of potential innovation:

  • orders must be as executed unless they clearly constitute a crime. In many countries, an officer are entitled to ask for a formal request for explanation when they are given an order they deem unlawful. Clearly this does not happen very often because the long bureaucracy and the stigmatization in the workplace an officer might go through.
  • there can be exceptions to the hierarchy when an officer, who is in charge of a special section or premise due to his/her special knowledge or skills, disagrees with a higher rank’s orders.
  • the rules of engagement (RoE) of a city’s police department are decided at the local public administration’s level: the government emanates the norm, but then that norm needs to be articulated into RoEs by the mayor and all the forces involved in a city’s security.
  • SF rely on more metrics than before, and today include as well the “popularity rate” on social media of certain events or decisions.
  • Today we not only have embedded media into SF, but also body cams on officers and many citizens use dash-cams on their cars along smart-phones.
  • Nato started a program in 2016 PsyOps conference in Tampa to improve the military “social” skills — something we can validate by seeing the amount of SF-owned YouTube accounts posting video of marines or officers doing drills, social challenges, addressing memes, etc. Although this could be intended as a spontaneous phenomenon, it is important to keep in mind that within SF nothing happens without higher ranks’ assent.
  • there are already some intersections between SF and blockchain technology: solutions for auditing the military’s spending, for supply tracking for components, a decentralized database for passports (a Dubai police’s project with Hyper Ledger).
  • the US DoD’s D.A.R.P.A. is working on a secure messaging system on Hyper Ledger for forward and backward secrecy in communications, self deleting live messages, one-time eyes only messages, defense against cyber attacks in on-field communication, and weapons monitoring.


(Kixunil and Specter, full article here).



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